Science X Newsletter Wednesday, Mar 18

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Spotlight Stories Headlines

Study unveils gapless ground state in an archetypal quantum kagome

A human-like planner that allows robots to reach for objects in cluttered environments

Rotavirus vaccine controls annual threat to vulnerable infants and toddlers

One of Darwin's evolution theories finally proved by Cambridge researcher

Inactive pill ingredients could raise the dose of your medication

Mathematicians develop new theory to explain real-world randomness

Ancient fish fossil reveals evolutionary origin of the human hand

'Wonderchicken' fossil from the age of dinosaurs reveals origin of modern birds

Crop diversity can buffer the effects of climate change

Evolution selects for 'loners' that hang back from collective behavior—at least in slime molds

Global warming influence on extreme weather events has been frequently underestimated

Stanford engineers create shape-changing, free-roaming soft robot

Google introduces real-time extended voice translation

Model simulator helps researchers map complex physics phenomena

For narwhals, the 'unicorn of the seas,' size matters for sexual selection

Physics news

Study unveils gapless ground state in an archetypal quantum kagome

At low enough temperatures, magnetic systems typically become solid crystals. A renowned phenomenon through which this happens is ferromagnetism, occurring when all elementary moments or spins interact at the atomic scale (i.e., the so-called Heisenberg interaction) and align in one direction. Ferromagnetism underpins the functioning of several everyday objects, including compasses, fridge magnets and hard drives.

Model simulator helps researchers map complex physics phenomena

To understand the behavior of quantum particles, imagine a pinball game—but rather than one metal ball, there are billions or more, all ricocheting off each other and their surroundings.

Leap in performance sees hollow-core fiber technology close in on mainstream optical fiber

Researchers from the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics at the University of Southampton have demonstrated a new leap in hollow-core fiber performance, underlining the technology's potential to soon eclipse current optical fibers.

Precision mirrors poised to improve sensitivity of gravitational wave detectors

Researchers have developed a new type of deformable mirror that could increase the sensitivity of ground-based gravitational wave detectors such as the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Advanced LIGO measures faint ripples in space time called gravitational waves, which are caused by distant events such as collisions between black holes or neutron stars.

New telescope design could capture distant celestial objects with unprecedented detail

Researchers have designed a new camera that could allow hypertelescopes to image multiple stars at once. The enhanced telescope design holds the potential to obtain extremely high-resolution images of objects outside our solar system, such as planets, pulsars, globular clusters and distant galaxies.

An advance in molecular moviemaking shows how molecules respond to two photons of light

Over the past few years, scientists have developed amazing tools—"cameras" that use X-rays or electrons instead of ordinary light ¬- to take rapid-fire snapshots of molecules in motion and string them into molecular movies.

Method of angular momentum multiplexing and demultiplexing for high-capacity optical communications

Optical multiplexing and demultiplexing utilizing the intrinsic physical properties of light has played a crucial role in high-capacity data storage and high-speed communications.

Distortion isn't a drag on fluid-straddling particles

Some intriguing physics can be found at the interfaces between fluids, particularly if they are straddled by particles like proteins or dust grains. When placed between un-mixable fluids such as oil and water, a variety of processes, including inter-molecular interactions, will cause the particles to move around. These motions are characterised by the drag force experienced by the particles, which is itself thought to depend on the extent to which they distort fluid interfaces. So far, however, experiments investigating the intriguing effect haven't yet fully confirmed the influence of this distortion. In new research published in EPJ E, a team led by Jean-Christophe Loudet at the University of Bordeaux, France, showed that the drag force experienced by fluid-straddling particles is less affected by interface distortion than previously believed.

The imitation game: Scientists describe and emulate new quantum state of entangled photons

A research team from ITMO University, with the help of colleagues from MIPT (Russia) and Politecnico di Torino (Italy), has predicted a novel type of topological quantum state of two photons. Scientists have also applied a new, affordable experimental method for testing this prediction. The method relies on an analogy: Instead of expensive experiments with quantum systems of two or more entangled photons, the researchers have used resonant electric circuits of higher dimensionality described by similar equations. The obtained results can be useful for the engineering of optical chips and quantum computers without the need for expensive experiments. The research was published in Nature Communications.

Frozen-planet states in exotic helium atoms

Exotic subatomic particles that are like 'normal' particles apart from one, opposite, property—such as the positron, which is like an electron but positively rather than negatively charged—are collectively known as antimatter. Direct studies of collisions between particles of matter and those of antimatter using giant facilities such as those at CERN can advance our understanding of the nature of matter. A new study by Tasko Grozdanov from the University of Belgrade in Serbia and Evgeni Solov'ev from the Institute of Nuclear Research near Moscow in Russia has mapped the energy levels of an exotic form of helium produced in this way. This work, which is published in EPJ D, has been described by one commentator as '... a new jewel in the treasure of scientific achievements in atomic physics theory".

Astronomy & Space news

On the origin of massive stars

This scene of stellar creation, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, sits near the outskirts of the famous Tarantula Nebula. This cloud of gas and dust, as well as the many young and massive stars surrounding it, is the perfect laboratory to study the origin of massive stars.

Research team discovers path to razor-sharp black hole images

Last April, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) sparked international excitement when it unveiled the first image of a black hole. Today, a team of researchers have published new calculations that predict a striking and intricate substructure within black hole images from extreme gravitational light bending.

Growing stem cells for deep space exploration

Earth's magnetosphere protects us from the most harmful cosmic rays that bombard our planet but beyond this natural shield, astronauts are subjected to radiation that is a hundred times more than at sea level.

Image: Space foam already bubbling as planned

Installed on Friday in the International Space Station and sending down images by Monday. This picture shows one of the first images of foam formed inside the Fluid Science Laboratory in Europe's space laboratory Columbus.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, who circled moon, dies at 88

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, who circled the moon alone in 1971 while his two crewmates test-drove the first lunar rover, has died at age 88, his family said Wednesday.

Technology news

A human-like planner that allows robots to reach for objects in cluttered environments

While research in the field of robotics has led to significant advances over the past few years, there are still substantial differences in how humans and robots handle objects. In fact, even the most sophisticated robots developed so far struggle to match the object manipulation skills of the average toddler. One particular aspect of object manipulation that most robots have not yet mastered is reaching and grasping for specific objects in a cluttered environment.

Stanford engineers create shape-changing, free-roaming soft robot

Advances in soft robotics could someday allow robots to work alongside humans, helping them lift heavy objects or carrying them out of danger. As a step toward that future, Stanford University researchers have developed a new kind of soft robot that, by borrowing features from traditional robotics, is safe while still retaining the ability to move and change shape.

Google introduces real-time extended voice translation

Google has announced a new real-time transcription feature for its free Translate app for Android phones. An IOS version is planned for the future, the company says.

Shedding light on optimal materials for harvesting sunlight underwater

There may be many overlooked organic and inorganic materials that could be used to harness sunlight underwater and efficiently power autonomous submersible vehicles, report researchers at New York University. Their research, publishing March 18 in the journal Joule, develops guidelines for optimal band gap values at a range of watery depths, demonstrating that various wide-band gap semiconductors, rather than the narrow-band semiconductors used in traditional silicon solar cells, are best equipped for underwater use.

Can humans and artificial intelligence come together to predict the future?

It could be argued that scientists create superpowers in their labs. If Aram Galstyan, director of the Artificial Intelligence Division at the USC Viterbi Information Sciences Institute (ISI) had to pick just one superpower, it would be the ability to predict the future. What will be the daily closing price of Japan's Nikkei 225 index at the end of next week? How many 6.0 or stronger earthquakes will occur worldwide next month? Galstyan and a team of researchers at USC ISI are building a system to answer such questions.

A novel artificial intelligence system that predicts air pollution levels

Imagine being scared to breathe the air around you.

Novel system allows untethered high-quality multi-player VR

Virtual reality headsets and application programs for VR are not gaining traction with users because of a chicken-and-egg dilemma, lack of VR content and slow market penetration of custom-made VR units.

'Worse than 9/11': Coronavirus threatens global airline industry

Fears of massive bankruptcies and calls for emergency bailouts swept global airlines Tuesday as a top US official warned the coronavirus crisis threatens the industry even more than the September 11 attacks, which saw US airspace shut down entirely. I

Tesla factory could be shut under California health order

The Tesla factory that employs thousands of people could be forced to close after Alameda County on Tuesday night declared it a "nonessential business" under the county's shelter-in-place order.

Facebook bug wrongly deleted authentic coronavirus news

Facebook said a bug in its anti-spam system temporarily blocked the publication of links to news stories about the coronavirus. Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of integrity, said on Twitter Tuesday that the company was working on a fix for the problem.

Fujifilm shares soar after China backs drug to treat virus

Shares in Japanese firm Fujifilm Holdings sky-rocketed on Wednesday after Chinese authorities said a drug produced by the company could be effective for treating coronavirus patients.

Amazon prioritizes medical supplies, staples for delivery

Amazon on Tuesday made a priority of medical supplies and household staples, putting shipments of other goods on hold to focus on key items during the coronavirus outbreak.

Nintendo online gaming network back after major outage

Gamers breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the end of a network outage that affected Nintendo's online games, with internet-based systems under increasing pressure from people staying home over coronavirus.

Boeing seeks $60 bn in US support for aerospace industry

Boeing is seeking at least $60 billion in federal support for the aerospace industry to help it navigate a battered aviation environment due to the new coronavirus, company officials said Wednesday.

The other virus threat: Surge in COVID-themed cyberattacks

It may look like an email from a supervisor with an attachment on the new "work from home policy." But it could be a cleverly designed scheme to hack into your network.

Cyber hygiene keeps your email safe from virtual viruses

The email is from someone you think is a co-worker in another department at your company, who like you, has suddenly found herself teleworking from home without the usual group of colleagues to help review things. She's asking your advice on a document attached to the email.

Predicting the future to decrease the temperature of mobile devices

The number of sensors all around us is rapidly increasing. From smartwatches and heart-rate monitors to smart refrigerators and thermostats, everything is measured and tracked. All these sensors for the Internet of Things (IoT) devices need batteries and they consume a lot of power. The project ZERO (Towards Energy Autonomous Systems for IoT) aims to create efficient devices that exploit the energy already around them, such as light, vibration and heat.

Pros and cons to the coronavirus news spread on social media

News and views about coronavirus has spread via social media in a way that no health emergency has done before.

Analysis reveals photovoltaic systems in U.S. operating as expected

The vast majority of solar panels are living up to expectations for energy production after five years, according to a new analysis of 100,000 photovoltaic (PV) systems across the United States.

Cross-technology communication in the Internet of Things significantly simplified

Whether networked vehicles that warn of traffic jams in real time, household appliances that can be operated remotely, "wearables" that monitor physical activity, or industrial plants that detect possible production errors in time and notify technical support, the number of intelligent products that communicate wirelessly with other devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) age has increased rapidly in recent years. However, not all of these devices are compatible with each other because they use different wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (low energy) or ZigBee, depending on the requirements and application. More than that, many devices often have the same radio frequencies and interfere with each other. This delays data transmission, data can be lost, energy consumption increases and battery life decreases.

New research improves drone detection for increased public safety

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, are widely used in mapping, aerial photography, rescue operations, shipping, law enforcement, agriculture, among other things. Despite great potential for improving public safety, use of drones can also lead to very undesirable situations, such as privacy and safety violations, or property damage. There is also the highly concerning matter of drones being harnessed to carry out terrorist attacks, which means a threat to public safety and national security.

Volvo recalls vehicles to fix automatic braking malfunction

Volvo is recalling more than 736,000 vehicles worldwide because the automatic emergency braking system may not detect obstacles and stop the vehicles as designed.

Apple brings PC-like trackpad to iPad tablets

Apple's new iPad brings PC-like trackpad capabilities for the first time, as the company seeks to make its tablet even more like a laptop computer.

Ford, GM: North American factories will close due to virus

Ford and General Motors are confirming that they will temporarily close all of their North American factories due to the coronavirus threat.

EU urges online media to ditch HD during virus

The European Union on Wednesday urged online media platforms to stream movies and entertainment in standard rather than high definition to relieve pressure on the internet during the coronavirus epidemic.

Amazon faces new role in virus crisis: lifeline

Amazon is finding itself in a new role in the coronavirus crisis as hunkered-down consumers increasingly turn to the tech giant for anything from toilet tissue to streaming television.

Facebook scrambles as use soars in time of isolation

Facebook said Wednesday it would place "authoritative" coronavirus content at the top of user feeds as it scrambled to keep up with increased usage and stem the flow of misinformation on its platform and WhatsApp messaging.

US auto workers union seeks two-week halt due to virus

The United Auto Workers is pushing for a two-week shutdown of American auto plants due to the coronavirus, officials said Tuesday, following a walkout at one plant.

Optical character recognition for graffiti

Researchers in China have recognised that optical character recognition (OCR) has matured and can identify and extract information from documents that use standard writing styles. However, the world over people have very different ways of writing that might remain obscure to OCR. Moreover, people scrawl and gesture on tablets and phones and other devices in ways that are not even close to their normal handwriting and so are likely to be illegible to a computer.

Scania to halt Europe truck production over virus

Scania, part of Volkswagen's Traton group, said Wednesday it was halting most of its European truck production following disruptions in the supply chain as a result of the coronavirus.

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Americans asked to postpone elective medical procedures as virus hits all 50 states
Americans asked to postpone elective medical procedures as virus hits all 50 states
Plus, President Trump invokes the Defense Production Act, which lets him speed up the production of medical supplies, and the UK is shutting all schools.
Amazon struggles to be the everything store amid pandemic

To meet surging demand, the company makes big changes to its operations.

Ford, GM suspend all North American production

Fiat Chrysler is likely to announce the same measure.

Trump says border with Canada will close to nonessential traffic

It's meant to stop people from crossing the border for social reasons. It doesn't affect trade or essential traffic, such as medical.

Fake coronavirus tracking apps are really malware that stalks you

The surveillance industry is exploiting fears stemming from the global health crisis.

Google, Facebook could help US track spread with phone location data

The companies have reportedly been in talks with the US government over using anonymous and aggregated data.

COVID-19 shines light on 'digital divide' across the US

From rural areas where there's no broadband to poor areas where it's unaffordable, millions have no access when they need it most.

White House: Millennials get coronavirus too, 'we need them to be healthy'

President Trump's coronavirus task force reiterates that young adults are the key to stopping the spread of a pandemic.

How to prepare for a quarantine

You'll need to do more than stock up on canned goods and toilet paper.

10 ways to help avoid coronavirus when you need to leave the house

If you're lying low but aren't totally self-quarantined, you'll still need to go to the store and open doors.

These coronavirus myths are false and dangerous

Despite what posts on Facebook or Instagram say, don't hold your breath to check for coronavirus.


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